Peaple and places: From librarian to Israeli businesswoman

It is my little bit of tikkun olam – making Israel a better place.

Nomi Lawson at the Osfa boutique in Baka. (photo credit: MEIR ZAROVSKY)
Nomi Lawson at the Osfa boutique in Baka.
(photo credit: MEIR ZAROVSKY)

Nomi Lawson’s life path was clear from the very beginning. Born in London, she first achieved a degree in Jewish history from University College London before making aliya and earning a degree in library science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Married with four children and grandchildren, she worked as a librarian at the university’s School of Education and then in public relations before becoming administrative director of Pelech Religious Experimental School for Girls in Jerusalem.

But in 2011, she made a sharp turn in her career path and stepped boldly into the world of business as the owner of the Osfa clothing store for women in Jerusalem. For Lawson, making aliya was “a logical and ideological decision and I consider it to be the greatest expression of my Jewish identity.

“Taught by such iconic educators as Nechama Leibowitz and the exposure to idealistic religious Zionism made me determined to leave the parochial Jewish community of Golders Green. To this day, despite my British cynicism and criticism of many aspects of Israeli life, I feel privileged to be part of the history of this country,” she declares.

Professionally, the years at Pelech were the most inspiring and satisfying, says Lawson. “I was privileged to work with some of the most inspiring, innovative, dedicated women I have ever met.

“We were a team, educational and administrative staff, and our goal was women’s religious and educational empowerment. I was totally overwhelmed by the knowledge and commitment of my colleagues and my love of working with women stems from these critical years.”

As a byproduct of her position at Pelech, Lawson was able to break out of the “Anglo- Saxon” bubble, learning to speak and write good Hebrew and enjoy socializing with veteran Israelis. Making such a significant change was nevertheless a natural step for Lawson, whose father was part of the fashion industry in the UK.

“At the age of 56, I was ready for another change, and endless battles with the Ministry of Education had toughened me up and prepared me to take a risk in the world of Israeli small businesses, and in 2011 Osfa – meaning Her Collection – was born.”

Lawson describes her experience since that decision as exhilarating. Located in the Baka neighborhood, Osfa is a boutique some 70% of whose stock comes from local designers as policy. “Osfa is more than a shop to me,” she explains. “I wish to bring my customers into an atmosphere that is non-pressured, warm and honest.

It is my little bit of tikkun olam – making Israel a better place. “It starts with greeting and smiling at each and every customer and it ends with finding the look that is right for them – the handicapped women who can take a bag of clothes home to try on in comfort, or the older women who receive the attention they deserve or the customers who can pop in to see what’s new without being pounced on.

“Also, through my connection with the suppliers, I find another source of joy – the creativity of Israeli fashion and the talented designers who work so hard.”

Lawson has also introduced some of her friends to model for her collections, which can all be seen at the boutique. She adds that she plans to start volunteering with a non-profit organization to mentor women looking to open their own businesses.